The neural correlates of emotion processing in juvenile offenders.


Individuals with severe antisocial behaviour often demonstrate abnormalities or difficulties in emotion processing. Antisocial behaviour typically onsets before adulthood and is reflected in antisocial individuals at the biological level. We therefore conducted a brain-based study of emotion processing in juvenile offenders. Male adolescent offenders and age-matched non-offenders passively viewed emotional images whilst their brain activity was recorded using electroencephalography. The early posterior negativity (EPN) and the late positive potential (LPP) components were used as indices of emotion processing. For both juvenile offenders and non-offenders, the EPN differentiated unpleasant images from other image types, suggesting that early perceptual processing was not impaired in the offender group. In line with normal emotion processing, the LPP was significantly enhanced following unpleasant images for non-offenders. However, for juvenile offenders, the LPP did not differ across image categories, indicative of deficient emotional processing. The findings indicated that this brain-based hypo-reactivity occurred during a late stage of cognitive processing and was not a consequence of atypical early visual attention or perception. This study is the first to show attenuated emotion processing in juvenile offenders at the neural level. Overall, these results have the potential to inform interventions for juvenile offending.